Leicester, UK

Becoming a Plant Lady: What I've Learned

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." - Marcus Tullius Cicero
It's a fairly safe bet that the first born daughter of a Suffolk-based arable farmer would have a natural aptitude for looking after plants, right? Well, if you made that assumption about me, you'd be very, very wrong. For most of my life I've had a knack for killing house plants. I'd either overwater the poor things so they simply gave up the ghost, or forget about them for a while only to find them a shrivelled dead mess weeks later. However, having turned 24 years old, I decided that it was high time for me to become a more responsible plant owner. Having my own self-contained apartment has made me exceptionally house proud and nothing makes me happier than having a few leafy green plants in the corner to add a bit of life to the place. Going from plant killer to plant lady has been a bit of a learning curve, so today's post is dedicated to all of the things I've discovered along my journey to potted perfection.

Abbey, wearing blue dungarees and a straw hat, sits among pot plants in a garden, holding a yellow hose

Always check your soil types

"What's the fastest way to kill an Aloe vera plant?" I hear you ask. Turns out, the answer is to plant them in water-retaining compost. Oops. As you can probably tell, my poor Aloes (which much prefer dryer soil types) went downhill fairly quickly after this disastrous move. I had made the mistake of popping into Wilko and picking up the first bag of compost I saw, thinking "how different can composts be?!" My foolishness nearly resulted in three dead Aloe vera plants. Now I'm a lot more cautious and have read up on all of the compost lingo. Ericaceous compost is very acidic and is perfect for rhododendrons and camellias but pretty toxic for Aloe vera, for example. All of the jargon can be intimidating but there are very many resources out there to help you select your ideal potting materials. Just learn from my mistakes and read them BEFORE your trip to the garden centre and not after...

Your supermarket herbs can go *so* much further than you expect

I'm sure I'm not the only person who purchases growing herb pots from the supermarket when I need some basil or chives for a tasty pasta dish. After all, the herbs clipped straight from the plant always taste the best! However, no matter how assiduously I watered my pots, they'd always die on me pretty quickly, usually well before I'd used up the herb supply. That was before I found out the reason why - turns out that supermarket herb pots are packed so tightly with many different plants that they simply cannot survive very long. So, when I last picked up some basil, I decided to experiment by separating the plants into two different containers just to see what happened. Lo and behold, my basil lasted almost three times as long! It definitely saved me from buying another few plants and it's something I'll certainly keep doing in future.

Abbey, visible from the waist down wearing yellow wellies and dungarees, stands next to pot plants in the garden, holding a hose

Don't be a helicopter plant parent

A sure-fire way to make a real-life human child hate you is to be a helicopter parent, hovering over them and interfering with every aspect of their life. The same can be said for plant children. When you're a new plant owner, the temptation to check on them every single day, watering them and moving them around is very strong. However, I've learned that this is actually one of the worst things you can do! It often leads to overwatering and your poor plant dying an early death. Moving your plants around can be fatal too since houseplants acclimatise to their surroundings fairly slowly. If you're moving them around a lot, it won't do them much good. Wikihow suggests moving plants very slowly, taking them to the new area for an hour a day, slowly increasing the amount of time they are left in their new setting until your plant has fully adjusted. 

Gardening is great for grounding

Grounding is a self-care measure that involves connecting your body to the earth, standing or sitting still on the ground and taking time to focus on being in the moment, letting your stresses and strains melt away. It's a really relaxing practice and something I very much enjoy. However, it's pretty hard to stay "grounded" when you live on the 17th floor of a tower block like I do! The ground is rather far away. But I find that through a bit of indoor gardening in my apartment, I can capture the essentials of a grounding practice. Caring for my plants and getting my hands dirty is a welcome distraction from the screen-based work of my PhD and my blog. It's a nice way of getting back to nature and enjoying something practical. When I'm looking after my plants, I'm looking after myself too!

Abbey, crouching down on one knee, holds a hose next to some pot plants. She wears denim dungarees and yellow wellies

Keeping holiday watering worries away is easier than you think

If, like me, you live alone and travel a lot for work (or for pleasure!), it can be a bit worrisome when leaving your plants for several weeks. My various cacti will be absolutely fine without water for a little while but my herbs, ferns and beloved fuchsia definitely won't be happy if left to dry out. Happily, my watering woes have been alleviated by a few gifts from a brand named Plantpal. Plantpal offer a range of automatic watering products that will keep your plants in tip-top shape whilst you're away. Lately I've been using the Plantpal 3 Watering Globes whilst on my travels and I've been really impressed by them. All you need to do is fill the spheres up with water and the intelligent moisture sensor system will dispense liquid as and when needed, for up to two weeks. The tip of the water dispenser is a soft material which doesn't get clogged with dirt and when pushed into the soil, the watering system delivers water right to the roots where it's needed. The globes are brightly coloured and aren't an eyesore amongst your plant pots, making them suitable for use all year round. They'd make a wonderful gift for any plant lovers in your life!

A yellow Plantpal watering globe sits in a plant pot containing a fern
Abbey carries three Plantpal watering globes in the front pocket of her denim dungarees

As well as the watering globes that I've been using, the Plantpal Watering System comes in a larger version, perfect for medium-size planters. My studio apartment doesn't quite have enough room for a planter of this size just yet but watch this space! I'm sure my plant family will be expanding very soon. I was really impressed by the Plantpal products that I was able to try and I'd highly recommend them. If you want to sample Plantpal for yourself, you can enter the giveaway below to win some automatic irrigation products of your own! Good luck!

Plantpal Giveaway #4
Are you a plant fanatic? What are your favourite things to grow? Let me know in the comments.

*The Plantpal products in this post were sent to me free of charge, in exchange for a blog post review.